Even though every sermon any of us have ever heard about peace—particularly if that sermon originates from Galatians—has told us that peace is not the absence of conflict. The idea here is that we can be people of peace, and have communal and individual peace even when everything around us is in the midst of tumult. This is a Biblical view of peace, but in reality the way we practice peace in the church is about trying to get to a place of peace as the absence of conflict.
This often comes when a church is looking to replace or hire a new staff member. Churches are replete with stories about one minister being too active or too controversial then leaving for another church or being fired and the very next minister being the most uninspiring, milk-toast, oatmeal talking person ever. Churches tend to swing from one side of the pendulum to the other. In this example, the new pastor comes in and gives the church what it wants in terms on not upsetting or challenging anyone, then the next thing you know, the church looks up and wonders why nothing is going on, why they’re not growing and why no new strides are being made. The reason is peace as the absence of conflict.
Some in the church have bought into the idea that peace, as the absence of conflict is always good. I seriously question that proposition. Like I said before, the transformative process by nature is not peaceful.
The church is supposed to call people away from the kingdoms of this world. Those kingdoms are the very air we breathe. We are bathed in it. We can’t escape it. That’s why the church cannot afford the absence of conflict. This, I think, is what Jesus meant when He said that He came not to bring peace, but a sword. The Savior is not interested in senseless violence, but rather He knows that to live as He is calling us to live, we would naturally be set apart—and set at odds—from the kingdoms of this world.
For example, white churches in the south repeated implored Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement to simple wait for equality and not cause domestic disturbance. This—as the absence of conflict—is peace. Yet, their position was not right. If someone had gone into a southern white church in the 1950’s and said, “Hey, we should everything we can to bring about equality for all races,” then he or she would probably have been run out of town. Yet it is the process of disrupting the peace that advanced the kingdom of God and made both the society and the church a truer reflection of the heart of God.
Peacekeeping is often opposition to God.